Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Social Security for People With Disability- The 360 Degree Guide

For people living with medically determinable disabilities, social security is an essential.

Offering social security for people born with disabilities or who become disabled later in life has a crucial role in meeting the specific income and employment needs of such people. Such systems can help to ensure income security, health protection and social inclusion of people with disabilities. 

For people living with disabilities, meeting ends can become an exacerbating task due to the restriction of employment opportunities. With potentially little chance of getting back into the labour market because of their disabilities or age, such people often find themselves in a precarious situation, often at the flag end of their lives.

One of the ways to reduce the struggles mentioned above is to apply for disability benefits provided by the government as it can help to explicitly address disability-related needs and providing income support to persons with disabilities and their families. Such benefits are available through the federal benefits programs of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – both of which are the most common programs from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

What is social security for people with disabilities?

There are two social security programs that the disabled can benefit from– the SSI and the SSDI. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the SSA and are only open for people with a disability and for those who meet the medical criteria to get financial benefits under the programs.

SSDI pays benefits to you and certain members of the family of a disabled if the applicant is “insured”. This means that the applicant or a family member (spice/parent) should have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Benefits under this program are paid on the basis of financial needs.

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The SSI program on the other hand provides minimum basic financial assistance to older adults and persons with disabilities – irrespective of their age, who have limited income and resources. Federal SSI benefits from the Social Security Administration are often supplemented by state programs.

The major difference between the two programs is SSI which is determined on the basis of age/disability and limited income and resources, while the determination of SSDI is based on disability and work credits. Moreover, in most states, an SSI recipient is automatically qualified for Medicaid and for Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability payments.

What conditions automatically qualify you for Social Security disability?

To automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits, one must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Additionally, the applicant must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability that includes the following-

  • One is unable to do work that he/she did before due to his/her medical condition
  • One is unable adjust to other work due to his/her medical condition and
  • One’s disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death

Typically under this program, monthly benefits are provided to applicants who are unable to work for a year or more due to a disability.

The financial benefits usually are continued to be paid till such time that the receiver is able to work again on a regular basis. The program also provides a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” under which a receiver is provided continued benefits and health care coverage to help them make a transition back to regular work.

If an individual receives Social Security disability benefits till such time that he/she reaches full retirement age, the disability benefits of the individual automatically get converted to retirement benefits, while the amount remaining the same.

For SSI benefits, the automatic qualifying age is 65 years or more or blindness (any age) or disability (any age) and limited or no income and resources.

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How much does social security disability pay monthly?

The average monthly benefit is $577 and $1,128 (as of Nov. 2020) for SSI and SSDI respectively while the maximum monthly benefit under SSI could be $794/$1,191 (for single/married couples) in 2021 (based on income) and under SDI of $3,148 in 2021 (based on work history).

How social security for the disabled varies according to state?

SSDI benefits do not change between different states as the payments are based on the average lifetime earnings of an applicant and are not affected by where one resides. SSI benefits for the disabled, however, vary from one state to another.

Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia provide additional cash benefits as supplements to the federal SSI disability payment. However, the value of these supplements varies from state to state, and often, on the living situation of the applicant. For example, a person living independently will be provided with a different amount compared to someone receiving home care. An individual person living in an assisted living residence will have a different amount. To know the exact amount, an applicant has to get in touch with the local state authorities and a decision on the amount of supplement pay will depend on the living condition and resources. 

How to apply for social security disability?

Currently one can apply for social security disability in three ways:

  • Filing online through the SSA site (www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/)
  • Over the phone by calling the Social Security office at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment for applying, and
  • Going to the local Social Security office without an appointment.

Whatever the preferred application method be, it is advised to print and review the Adult Disability Checklist for gathering the information that will be needed to complete the application. Applications can be filed after completing the Disability Benefit Application as well as the Medical Release Form.

How much can I earn while on social security disability in 2021?

As of 2021, the maximum amount of money an individual can earn through SSDI benefits is $1,310 per month for non-blind disabled workers. For blind persons, the maximum SSDI income limit is $2,190 per month.

In the case of SSI, the income limits are based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which currently is at $794 per month for individuals or $1,191 for couples, as of 2021.


Social Security for the disabled not only provides receivers and their families with a basic floor of income to lead their lives with dignity, but these two programs also support the re-integration of persons with disabilities into the labour market by facilitating their participation in employment. Social security for the disabled therefore also plays a key role in promoting independent living and income security. Further, people with disabilities and financial issues can avoid falling into poverty traps by applying for these benefits. And lastly, health protection that comes with social security benefits for people with disabilities also is a means to ensure fulfilment of their health-related needs.

Debdutta Ghosh
Debdutta Ghosh is a Journalist who has been associated with leading media firms of India like Asian Age, Indian Express and Hindustan Times as well as television channels such as Zee News/Business and ABP News as a reporter for more than 20 years. With a Post-Graduation Diploma in Mass Communication & a Bachelor Degree in Science, his expertise as content expert lies in the areas of Business News Analysis, PR, and Marketing Communication.





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